Like any self-respecting geek, the announcement by Cartoon Network cancelling both Young Justice and the Green Lantern depressed a brotha deeply. It was bad enough to find out that the shows were on some top-secret hiatus, and “how to ‘whatevahdaheck’ your dragon” was on instead, but the cancellation was the last straw. Time to take it to the streets. I mean who do these people think they are? In the mist of petitions and outrage, I have decided to take the high road. You see my geek bretheren and sisteren, we should be thankful these things even existed.
The Cartoon Channel has been knocking it out the box, especially in regards to us geeks of Arrested Development. Adult swim is off the chain, with the genre-bending, socio-political, hip hop juggernaut that is the Boondocks, the Psychedelic Blaxploi-Grindhouse punk funk jam that is Black Dynamite and now the Gothic Anime slug-fest Rave that is Souleater. Like I have said time and time again, there has been no better time to be a geek. While Green Lantern, in my humble opinion, is the template for the live action Summer Blockbuster you will never see, it is the Emmy award-winning Young Justice that I urge you to dig, because Young Justice is to Teen Superhero Saturday Morning cartoons what Battlestar Gallactica was to primetime SyFy tv shows–the next level.
Starting with a hour long pilot in November 2010, the episodes ‘Independence day’ and ‘ Fire Works’ had creators Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti hitting the ground running gathering many of DC’s teenage heroes from the great Peter David/Todd Dezago book of the same name. Weisman and Vietti apparently were given freedom to skip through D.C.’s array of alternate timelines and earths, picking, choosing and tweaking characters left and right. This included giving you a female Archer in Artemis, a more than practical but intriguing take on how Superboy came to be, the most amazing interpretation of a Martian ever and an alternate Aqualad that is actually cool (think a teenage Black Namor with liquid swords). Formed as a Junior Justice league, the members of the rolling line up of former sidekicks are first assigned benign tasks but quickly move up to doing the leagues covert missions, However when a global menace causes a catastrophic event, the adult heroes have to head off planet, the youth are left to defend earth themselves.
Now I realize with my Geekspeak I have lost you civilians, but for those of you adventurous enough to stick around and momentarily forgo DVR’ing episodes of Honey Boo Boo, hear me out. Hollywood has a love-hate relationship with genres. Take ’70s and ’80s TV shows–built in audiences, already developed premises, easy money. The best of these projects, regardless of how you feel about the lack of creativity, are always the ones that a little love was given to. For example Charlie’s Angels, especially the first, was pure love. But Starsky and Hutch? Not so much. Once you choose not to lose focus on the reasons why folks loved these things in the first place and why they lasted, a better chance at the masses and moneymaking is at hand. This is the same with Superheroes. There is a reason why these characters endured for decades, so if you can’t find a director who’s a fan, you find someone who can at least still fall in love. I am a fanboy, but I truly believe when that happens, money-making has a better chance. That’s me, however, sitting in my cramped apartment writing this article not a studio exec who deals with this stuff daily, so wtf do I know?
Young Justice is one of those rare moments, however, where a Superhero story (despite the colorful costumes) manages to convey real human emotion–from the loss of a parent, to first love to finding your identity. Mixed in deeply is social commentary about questioning authority, personal responsibility and the basic fact that if we don’t learn to get along, we are doomed. These are all awesome attributes of a great show, but don’t get it twisted, intellectual musings do not get in the way of flat-out big-budget Michael Bay style mayhem. In one of my fave episodes ‘Beneath,’ a racially diverse all-female Alpha squad infiltrate an enemy camp , causing a ruckus that includes up-close and personal hand to hand combat with one character virtually ripping giant, stone doors off the side of a mountain so the speeding rescue plane doesn’t crash into them. (more popcorn, please?). Rarely does that kind of stuff happen in movies. Only Geek deities like Jackson or Abrams or Whedon ever achieve that. We got a Superhero franchise blockbuster for cheap, on a Saturday morning.
So please, as the show winds down, check it out brave folks. If you loved this stuff as a kid , chill and treat yourself , grab some breakfast, sit up in bed and drift in to a world fantastic where your intelligence won’t be insulted and enjoy.
And hey thanks, Cartoon Network, feel free to go this deep again. Some of us citizens are behind you all the way, but please be gentle next
time you decide to cancel the Best Superhero Show…EVAH!